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Brandy Wine

Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.

Samuel Johnson

Brandy or Brandy Wine is one of the many serendipitous inventions bestowed upon mankind. Legend has it that 15th century Dutch traders boiled water out of their exported Wines in order to save tax (as tax was levied by volume), to save space in the cargo and to make Wines last longer during long sea journeies. Water was added back later to recover the original Wine. However, at some point it was realised that the burned Wine (or boiled cooled Wine) tasted better if it was aged in wooden casks for a while. Thus Brandewijn (burned Wine in Dutch) or Brandy was chanced upon and it was learned that distilling grape Wines and finally aging the distilled product gives the Brandy Wine, that we know today.

In principle, Brandy can be made by fermenting juice of any fruit or combination of various fruits. However, most of the world's Brandy is usually made by distilling grape Wines. Grape Brandies are aged in oak barrels for several years but other fruit brandies are generally consumed unaged.

The most celebrated Brandies come from a small region called Cognac in western France. They are double-distilled white Wines that are aged for at least three years in oak barrels. Armagnac is another popular brandy which comes from the Gascony region of southwestern France. Armagnac is single-continuous distilled from Wines of the same vintage and are often aged for more than ten years to develop its full mellowness.

Calvados is one of the most popular fruit Brandies. It is produced in the Normandy region of France. It is double distilled from fermented apple juice. Other popular distilled fermented fruit juices are Romanian Tuica made from plums, apples and peaches; German Kirsch made from cherries; Hungarian Palinka can be made from any fruit and Croatian and Serbian Sljivovic (pronounced Slivovitz) made from plums.

Brandy Glass or Snifter Brandy is normally 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume) and it is usually drank after dinner. Brandy should be served at a slightly higher temperature than red Wines (~19 Deg C or 66 Deg F). Brandy is served in a thin clear glass called snifter. It is globe shaped with a much wider bowl and a narrower opening to allow bouquet to concentrate at the top. It has a smaller stem compared to other Wine glasses. The wider bowl of the glass provides greater surface area allowing efficient heat transfer from the hand to the brandy. Yes, a brandy snifter may be held by the bowl unlike other Wine glasses!

Brandies have their own labelling system found near the brand name on the bottle to describe their quality.
  • A.C. aged 2 years in wood.
  • V.S. "Very Special" or 3-Star, aged at least 3 years in wood.
  • V.S.O.P. "Very Superior Old Pale" or 5-Star, aged at least 5 years in wood.
  • X.O. "Extra Old", Napoleon or Vieille Reserve, aged at least 6 years, Napoleon at least 4 years.
  • Vintage Stored in the cask until the time it is bottled with the label showing the vintage date.
  • Hors D'age Too old to determine the age, 10 years minimum, and are usually of great quality.

Updated: Sunday, June 3, 2007, 02:07 AM

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